Taya Kyle, the widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, appeared on a CNN town hall on gun violence Thursday night, where she and President Obama had a strained but civil discussion on gun laws. Kyle also penned an editorial for CNN today, reiterating that she doesn’t believe any additional laws would have saved her husband.
Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper, was shot and killed in 2013 by Eddie Ray Routh, a troubled former Marine whom Kyle had taken to a gun range. Routh was convicted of capital murder in February 2015 and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Routh’s defense said he suffered from PTSD and his mental state was compromised at the time of the murder, which neither the jury nor Taya Kyle bought. (The Washington Post found that Routh didn’t engage in direct combat while he was a Marine.)
During the town hall, Kyle argued that more gun laws would only criminalize responsible gun owners, not prevent crime. She also asked why Obama wasn’t “celebrating” or acknowledging the lower murder rate in the U.S. overall, while gun ownership is at “an all-time high.”
“The laws that we create don’t stop these horrific things from happening,” she said. “That is a very tough pill to swallow.” She added, “I want the hope that I have the right to protect myself. That I don’t end up to be one of these families, that I have the freedom to carry whatever weapon I feel I need.”
Obama responded by thanking Kyle for her husband’s service, then argued that there’s no particular correlation between places in the U.S. where the crime rate is low and the gun ownership rate is high.
“Some criminals will get their hands on firearms even if there’s a background check,” he conceded. “Somebody may lie on a form. Somebody will intend to commit a crime but they don’t have a record that shows up on the background check system.” He likened it to traffic accidents: “There are still tragedies, there are still drunk drivers, there are still people who don’t wear their seatbelts, but over time that violence is reduced.”
The President added, “There’s a way for us to set up a system where you, a responsible gun owner, who I’m assuming given your husband and family is a much better marksman than I am, can have a firearm to protect yourself, but where it’s much harder for someone to fill up a car with gun and sell them to 13-year-old kids on the streets.”
Kyle isn’t convinced; in an op-ed for CNN today, she argued that new gun restrictions would be giving in to fear. She likened the gun debate to rape, seemingly arguing that gun laws are similar to castrating men:
Does every man commit rape? There is a human element here that is real and we cannot legislate. Would we take away the freedom of all men by castration because some cannot handle what they have? No, we allow freedom until an individual chooses to take something that others use for good and use it to do harm to another.
Are our current laws being enforced? Are felons and known drug users really put in jail when arrested for a lesser crime and known to have a gun? In most situations, no, because police have more pressing issues than to incarcerate a felon for having a gun that he or she hasn’t used in a crime. We have plenty of laws on the books that we cannot or do not enforce. Let’s start enforcing what we have before creating new laws.
Understandably, we want a solution to ensure that we and our loved ones will never be in the situation of being caught unaware by someone who chose to do evil. Mass killers have targeted churches, businesses, movie theaters, schools and hospitals, but they could as easily take their violence to a place where people are armed. Yet they do not.
Kyle added, “I hope our people hold tight to the notion that we do not have to be a fear-ridden country focused on restrictions, but rather that we remain the land of the free and home of the brave.”